Pillaged rosewood betwee Senegal and The Gambia: The criminal denunciation filed by TRIAL International leads to the opening of a criminal investigation in Switzerland
Pillaged timber between Senegal and The Gambia: The criminal denunciation filed by TRIAL International leads to the opening of a criminal investigation in Switzerland
In June 2019, TRIAL International filed a criminal denunciation with the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG), against Nicolae Bogdan Buzaianu, a Swiss businessman close to former Gambian president Yahya Jammeh. The organisation suspected him of pillage, a war crime under Swiss law.
According to the detailed file submitted to the OAG by TRIAL International, the Westwood company presumably owned by this Swiss businessman along with former president Yahya Jammeh was involved in the illegal exploitation and the export of the precious and protected rosewood in Casamance from 2014 to 2017. For several decades, large areas of the region were in conflict and under the control of armed separatist groups, including the Mouvement des Forces démocratiques de Casamance (MFDC). Yet, the illegal exploitation of natural resources in conflict areas can be considered as an act of pillage, which is a war crime under international and Swiss law.
According to information gathered by TRIAL International, the OAG has formally opened a criminal investigation regarding the alleged illegal exploitation and export of rosewood between Senegal and The Gambia. The opening of the proceeding follows the above-mentioned criminal report filed with the OAG by TRIAL International in June 2019. It should be specified that as of today, TRIAL International has no official information on the offense(s) and the person(s) – natural or legal – targeted by the criminal investigation.
This criminal investigation is the third one opened by the OAG following investigations and cases filed by TRIAL International against economic actors suspected of pillage. The two other criminal cases concern the illegal trade of minerals from Eastern Congo in the DRC and the plundering of Libyan fuel. For TRIAL International, these cases not only have the potential to lead to jurisprudence that would clarify the obligations under international humanitarian law of economic actors operating in conflict zones or occupied territories. They can also put an end to the widespread impunity of economic actors who destroy the environment and illegally exploit natural resources, thereby fueling the causes of conflicts.
To watch the report “Trafic de bois, les criminels de l’environnement”, broadcasted on Temps Présent, 16 June 2022 on the swiss television RTS: